Reflection and Reflective Practice
In this chapter our purpose is to set out our meanings of reflection and reflective practice and convey their importance to learning in higher education in promoting the potential for deep and significant learning. What does it mean to engage in reflection? What do we mean when we engage in reflective practice? When can we refer to ourselves as 'reflective practitioners'? How can reflective practice encourage the deeper levels of learning to which universities and colleges aspire?
We wish to explain the ideas on reflective practice as clearly as possible. In doing so, we realize that we are using a cognitive, analytical and fairly rational means in order to make the explanation as accessible as possible to readers. In the description we may inadvertently convey the idea that once cognitively understood as a concept, then reflective practice is a straightforward and rational process. A cognitive understanding of reflective practice is a step towards what is in practice a complex and more holistic endeavour.
Barnett (1992a) uses the phrase, 'We're all reflective practitioners now'. There is a continuous search for knowledge; there is no end point. Moreover, this applies to how we practice in that the criteria by which we practice require constant evaluation. We need to be aware, therefore, of our actions in order that we may evaluate them. The capacity to engage in reflective practice becomes one of the means of enhancing the quality of the educational process and of promoting learning appropriate to higher education.
Engaging in reflective practice for Barnett is a means by which the student learner can be
enabled to develop the capacity to keep an eye on themselves, and to
engage in critical dialogue with themselves in all they think and do …
it is a reflexive process in which the student interrogates her/his
thoughts or actions. The learning outcome to be desired, from every
student, is that of the reflective practitioner.
(Barnett, 1992a: 198, original italics)